A Few Words

Scrounging up confidence, battling insecurity, and facing internal and external opposition is a day-to-day struggle for some writers. Myself included. And it’s not only with writing – it can bleed into other aspects of life, as well.

It has been difficult lately to sit down and write and work on queries. Nagging “what ifs?” and an abundance of pressure settle on my shoulders whenever I open up my MS, and I can’t stop worrying about whether or not it’s good enough to put out there. It’s self-sabotage, I know – but it’s like black clouds converge upon my brain and I can’t shake them off, and it spoils all of my efforts.

20180916_2142191762263572.jpgBut sometimes, all it takes is a few words to fend off the cold shroud of discouragement. I found this little note, from an old friend of mine, tucked into a book on my bookshelf the other day while cleaning my room.

And it was like a small dose of sunlight, scattering the storm. I pondered the words, mulling over them like a stream over pebbles, and thought, maybe the world does need my voice. I want to share it – and really, nothing external is stopping me. The only one holding me back is me – so I need to push myself, if I want my voice to be heard.

Sometimes, all it takes is a few words. One little post-it note can pack a lot of power. Now, when I look at this little green reminder tacked above my desk, I can battle those “what-ifs?” with renewed confidence, and remember that I have support.

Hopefully, a new story is on the horizon. I can’t wait for you all to read it.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

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DNF

As an avid reader, I try my hardest to adhere to the policy that if I start a book, I must finish it. I am far more strict when it comes to films – especially if I am seeing them in theaters – but still have similar standards for books. I don’t like leaving unfinished business when it comes to literary or cinematic endeavors, and I loathe having to brand a book with the much-hated “Did Not Finish” or “DNF” label.

If a book is “meh” to me after the first few chapters, I am often capable of powering through. Some books take a bit to really kick it into gear, and it’s often worth it to persevere. But, on the flip side, if a book fails to really sink its claws into a reader as the pages pass, they can fall into the “DNF” category.

I recently abandoned a book, and though I felt awful doing so, it was the right decision. I know it’s a normal thing to do – no book is universally loved, and I’m sure my own book has been branded as the dreaded “DNF” for some readers. I gave the book a fair chance to win me over – I read a little over fifty pages during an elliptical session at the gym – but ultimately decided to shelve it. It’s the first book I have abandoned this year. The content of the book and the nature of some of the plot elements were not something I could endure, so I gave up and moved to the next book on my “to read” list, which I am enjoying much more.

However, I think it’s important to distinguish that “DNF” does not necessarily mean that a book is bad. The book I just gave up on wasn’t bad – in fact, the quality of the writing stood out to me as a major plus. It just wasn’t the book for me. I didn’t give it up because it was an atrocious abomination, or a jumbled mess – I just realized that I didn’t really fit into the target audience, and that’s okay. I gave it a shot, and it wasn’t a good fit, so I didn’t rate it and didn’t review it because that wouldn’t be fair. If someone were to ask me my opinion of the book, I wouldn’t lambaste it – but I would be honest about my reasons for giving it the “DNF” stamp, and would offer my reasoning in case they would also prefer to avoid books with such content.

I’m curious to know, as fellow readers, what are your potential “DNF” red flags? What makes you want to give up a book? Too much flowery prose? Explicit or undesirable content? Frequent comma abuse? And if you “DNF” a book, are you quick to warn your fellow readers, or does it depend on the specific book?

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

 

Jury Duty

Parking garages should not be so full this early.
The clock says “7:11.”
And the paper said be here by “8.”
I knew I should have stopped at Starbucks.
Though the world’s strongest latte could not prepare me for this.

No phone, no computer, no internet, no outside contact.
Just a room, 200 strangers, and a series of uncomfortable chairs.
We have no names, only numbers.
I am 0075, a badge pinned to my chest.
Hours pass, but feel like eons.
Endless, with the insistent buzz of idle chatter.
And incessant, whispered whining.
Book #1 is finished by lunchtime.
An hour and a half for a burrito and some chips,
and an iced coffee to battle fatigue.

At last, a list comes through.
42 numbers are summoned,
but not mine.
I remain in my chair, listless and tired.
Book #2 conquered before the clock strikes 4.
At dismissal, we stream from the doors, eager for freedom,
like cattle after a long winter.

Day 2 begins much the same.
My back aches, my legs are stiff.
Two lists are called before lunch,
but 0075 has not yet surfaced.
At this point, I pray for a taste of variety,
of a different room, and a different scene.
How random is it, really?
Book #3 is knocked out over a PB&J.

After lunch, we are subjected to a comedy/romance film from 2005.
I focus instead on book #4.
I don’t know how much more I can take,
of crawling time, and a rock-hard chair.
One more list passes through,
but I don’t make the cut.

The third day arrives,
but nervous tension lingers in the air.
My fellow number and I wonder,
What if we are called this late in the week,
and must return on Monday?
Such hell would be unbearable.

Five days of this would be too much,
no matter how important it is to learn,
how our judicial system works.
Really.
I’ve seen enough Law&Order and Forensic Files to know,
the importance of justice.

A list does not come through until after book #5,
a dramedy film from 2007,
lots of tears, and tissues passed around,
and another burrito, no chips.
This time, I do not yearn for change as the microphone drones.
Number, after number, after number.
Groans, and trudging feet leave the room.
No, not mine I pray. Please don’t call mine.
It’s Thursday, dammit.
I want to go home.
My neighbor is called,
and I wish her luck as she disappears.
My number does not ring out.

Midway through a family comedy from 2003,
New faces enter, with a basket of envelopes, and an empty box.
Could it be? we wonder.
Anticipation ripples through the room.
And the magic words are uttered,
“You are dismissed for the week.”
We cheer, deposit our badges, collect our envelopes,
and flee for the parking garage.

I am not 0075 anymore.
I have my name back.
I performed my civic duty.
I had no hand in justice.
Yet, that’s probably a good thing.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Viva Las Vegas!

When my sister and her fiance announced that they planned to hold their wedding in Las Vegas, I was… apprehensive. My image of Vegas has always leaned in the “den of debauchery” direction, where I would be a fish out of water. I barely drink, I’ve never gambled, and I have no interest in strip clubs or anything of the sort. I’m not morally opposed to any of that, it just isn’t for me. But, since my sister graciously bestowed the title of Maid of Honor upon me, I had no choice but to go.

Just from walking along the strip each day I saw an Elvis impersonator on a motor scooter, was verbally accosted by a male stripper dressed (well….partially dressed) as a cowboy, was called a “naughty girl” by a female stripper in a risque police getup, politely rebuffed all folks attempting to hand out fliers, and saw numerous feathered and glittery showgirls strutting among the crowd. But Vegas really is what you make of it.

img_20180901_0744021300954137.jpgThough I didn’t indulge in much stereotypical “Vegas” behavior, I still had the time of my life.

First of all, dry heat is SOOO much better than the soupy, jungle-esque humidity that’s been assaulting south-central PA all summer. Yes, it’s the desert out in Nevada, and it is hot – but it’s not a gross, heavy heat like it is here. However, the brilliance of the sun pierced my 50spf sunscreen like scissors through paper, and I was very close to having noticeable tan-lines for the wedding ceremony. Fortunately, frequent slatherings and protective sunglasses kept the worst at bay. The lack of rain probably sucks long-term, though, so I doubt I’ll be moving west any time soon.

img_20180906_211505747688568.jpgThe food is great, if expensive… but if you’ve ever vacationed in a big, bustling tourist destination, that’s no surprise. The best meal I had was probably the shrimp and grits at Pub 1842, which is the restaurant of chef Michael Mina located in the MGM Grand. It was expensive, but it’s the one meal I had that I felt was 100% worth the high price tag. My other favorite meals were the french toast at PBR Rock Bar and Grill, which is very reasonably priced, and Pink Box Donuts, which are sinfully delicious. The poutine appetizer at Robert Irvine’s was also spectacular. I wish I’d made it to one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants, but I did get a photo op outside of Hell’s Kitchen. $56 for a Beef Wellington is a bit outside my price range, regardless.

The food might be pricey, but the cost of alcohol in Vegas is insane, so if you’re ever planning on partying it up out there, plan your budget accordingly. I can count the drinks I had over the course of the five days on one hand, and one was at an open bar, but it still hurt my wallet. For reference, I got three drinks at the pool one day (not all for me) and my bill was $60. At breakfast one morning, my meal was $8 and my drink was $13. I mean, I totally get it – it just made me glad I’m a lightweight. And the drinks I did get were fantastic.

Now, I want to get to the actual point of this post, so we’re going into bullet-point mode for a bit…

  • img_20180902_1548112035817839.jpgThere’s a ton of things to do/see on and around the strip for folks of all dispositions. There’s even a Chocolate World, which was a shock to me – someone who is from an area near the actual Hershey, PA.
  • Every casino/hotel has enough inside of it that you technically don’t even need to leave the place you’re staying to have a fulfilling vacation. I stayed at the Tropicana, but also explored Caesar’s Palace, the MGM Grand, New York, New York, and The Cosmopolitan, and wish I’d had time to see more.
  • The Bellagio Fountains are so cool to see. We watched “The Star Spangled Banner” and  “Time to Say Goodbye,” which were brilliant, but my sister got to see “My Heart Will Go On” at night, which I’m sure was a treat.
  • Walking past the Hard Rock Cafe on our last morning, ABBA’s “Take a Chance on Me” started to play. It’s like they knew I was walking by.
  • Everyone working at the various hotels, restaurants, and attractions were all pleasant and nice, and I don’t recall personally encountering anyone who was grumpy or rude. Basically, the hospitality in general is five-star.
  • My parents and I decided to check out a Cirque du Soleil show, and we settled on KA. It was a beautiful performance and top-tier quality show and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for an entertaining night out. My aunt and uncle saw the Beatles-themed show, LOVE, and raved about it as well. They also saw Penn and Teller, but you probably don’t need me to tell you that they were impressed.
  • I won $20 on a slot machine at the airport, though it was technically a net profit of $18. I like slot machines now, but I can see how they are addicting and know to quit when I’m ahead.

img_20180901_161944_578907505970.jpgBut the true highlight of my trip was getting to spend time with friends and family, some of whom we don’t get to see very often, and – of course – getting to see my older sister marry her soulmate… who is now her husband! I know when folks think of a Vegas wedding, they imagine a tacky chapel, a gaudy, rented dress and pale-colored suit, and a short ceremony officiated by an Elvis impersonator.

I mean, it could have been like that – but it wasn’t.

It was simple and lovely, well-thought out, full of joy and enthusiasm, and I’m so happy that they included me in their special day. The ceremony, out on the terrace at the Tropicana and put together by some very patient coordinators and planners, was beautiful. About 30 friends and family members made the trip to see the nuptials, which is impressive for a destination wedding. And the reception at Robert Irvine’s afterward was wonderful, though, while we were waiting for the room to be ready, the wedding party (except for me, who could not care less, and a few others) and guests were all crowded around the restaurant’s television watching the Penn State game, and I’m pretty sure everyone in the establishment knew that we were from PA after some very ardent reactions. It was rewarding to see my sister and her new husband enjoy their day and get to start their life together. And the cake was bomb.

I know they say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas… but I couldn’t resist writing a post about this trip because I’m so happy for my sister, and look forward to seeing her and her husband star this new chapter in their life.

 

 

 

Let us go then, you and I…

Though my favorite poet is Walt Whitman, and I own a well-loved edition of Leaves of Grass, he did not pen my favorite poem. That distinction belongs to “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” written by T.S. Eliot and published in 1915. I’m also a big fan of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, but that’s neither here nor there…

At it’s core, I interpreted the poem as being about an individual who wants so many things in life, but laments missed opportunities and fears speaking his mind and voicing his desires. Anxiety and fear and a bombardment of “what ifs” assail him, and prevent him from pursuing his dreams. But there are a variety of ways to read the poem, and many allusions and themes that can be discerned from it. Prufrock has a distinct feel and voice, and because it impacted me so much, I made a rudimentary “motion comic” for an English final in 2012.

I don’t see much use in keeping this stored on my computer collecting dust, so here’s the YouTube link! Yes… I am aware that I cannot draw proportionate hands. I couldn’t then, and I still can’t.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon / Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Literary Love Quotes

In honor of my beloved older sister getting married TOMORROW, I thought I’d whip up a post on some of my favorite, and most poignant literary love quotes!

jane-eyre-2011-x-400-x-4“The world may laugh—may call me absurd, selfish—but it does not signify. My very soul demands you.” – Edward Rochester to Jane Eyre, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

“I’ll be looking for you, Will, every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again, we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you… We’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams…” – Lyra to Will, The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

Westley-and-Buttercup-the-princess-bride-3984050-465-300“My God, if your love were a grain of sand, mine would be a universe of beaches.” – Westley to Buttercup, The Princess Bride by William Goldman

“When the sun has set, no candle can replace it.” – Loras to Tyrion about Renly, A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin

“You’re not getting away from me. Never again.” – Percy to Annabeth, The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

“You love me, real or not real?”
I tell him, “Real.” – Peeta and Katniss, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you…I could walk through my garden forever.” – Alfred Lord Tennyson

“I, Geric-Sinath of Gerhard, declare that you’re beautiful and you’re perfect and I’ll slay any man who tries to take you from my side. Goose girl, may I kiss you?” – Geric to Ani, The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

 

Reading Out Loud

Reading is a different experience when it is done on one’s own as opposed to a book being read aloud. The very words “reading aloud” can evoke horrible memories of “popcorn” reading in class and being afraid of stumbling over or mispronouncing a word, but being read to is a different story altogether.

Some of my fondest memories from childhood are my mom reading me and my sister The Chronicles of Narnia. I fell in love with Mr. Tumnus, the Pevensie children, Aslan, Prince Caspian, Reepicheep, and so many other characters and places thanks to her introducing us to those wonderful adventures. A few years later, when I was old enough, I revisited Narnia on my own, and it was an equally enchanting experience.

Hearing stories aloud can have pitfalls, too. In third grade, my teacher read us Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Much like Viktor Krum, she wasn’t sure how to pronounce Hermione’s name, and went for “Hermy-own” instead. I thought that was how her name was pronounced until the following year, when the movie was released. My fourth grade class somehow finagled a field trip to see the film, and when they said “Hermione” onscreen for the first time, my brain went, “Ohhhhhhhhh. That’s how you say it.” I had already read the second book by then, so had gone through two books with the wrong pronunciation, and it still took me a bit to shake it when Azkaban came out.

My love for sci-fi also began with reading out loud, as my (either 3rd or 4th grade teacher… I can’t remember) read A Wrinkle in Time to my class. It’s not a book I would have ever picked for myself. Hearing the descriptions out loud instead of in my head made it so much easier to imagine the characters and the events, and it made me interested to seek out the remaining books in the series, though it was admittedly much later. I don’t even know if they’d read a book like this in classes these days, but I hope they still do.

Where_the_red_fern_grows_1996

I think the most memorable “read aloud” experiences for me is Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls, which we read during class in fifth grade. The simultaneously heart-warming and heart-breaking 1961 tale of a boy and his two hunting dogs was a unique experience because my class went through the joys and the sorrows as a collective, instead of on our own. At the most pivotal parts of the story, the class was totally rapt, listening in sheer silence as our teacher described the adventures and the close bond between Old Dan, Little Ann, and their human, Billy – and the devastation that comes with heavy, wrenching loss. I’ll never forget this story, and I know it hit me harder because it was read to me, and to my peers, instead of me reading it on my own. I probably would have skimmed some parts if I’d been reading it solo, but I’m very glad that was not the case. You can’t ignore the “sad” in books forever, and I’m thankful that I got to hear this book read aloud so I could process the emotions in a meaningful, and helpful way.

Do any fellow readers and writers have memorable “reading out loud” experiences? I’d love to know!

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon / Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.